- Family and Parenting
5 Reasons to NOT Put Your Child in Public Kindergarten
An exciting time!
What parent and child aren't excited about being ready for "big boy/girl school?" Taking the school bus, making new friends, new clothes, school supplies, etc. are all exciting parts of growing up! This blog is directed to the well-educated parent, the parent who understands that just because our society says we should send our child off to the public school at age five, doesn't mean that is the best time or place to enter. We have to use our discernment and choose what is going to be best for our child.
Constraints and demands on educators have changed drastically, even since I sent my last child to kindergarten eight years ago. In fact, things changed a year or two after my daughter went through. The reason I'm expressing these views is that kindergarten was one of the toughest years on my daughter's academic career thus far. If you have a bright child, consider some other schooling option for this year: home school, private, etc. Here's why.
Disclaimer: I am not an educator but I have been an active substitute teacher for almost 10 years and have served in elementary, middle and high schools. I am also the parent of four children and have had a full range of experiences of schools and teachers.
1. So MANY Kids!
Many of you who are reading this blog have at least one child. Think about how it feels when you add two or more. Most adults get anxious when they are outnumbered like this. Most public school systems are looking for ways to trim costs. Unfortunately for our kids, one of their first cost-cutting measures is to increase class size. Yeah.
If you have never been in a classroom with 20-25 five-year-olds, lucky you. It takes a very special person with incredible amounts of energy and patience to do this day in and day out. To be more specific, the National Education Administration (NEA) says, " an elementary school with a school-wide student-teacher ratio of 16:1 in kindergarten through third grade would typically have an average class size of 25 or 26 students in those same grades." The discrepancy of class size is offset by the addition of part or full-time para-pros. If you live in California, Oregon, Utah, Washington, or Indiana, class size might be higher. The states where it might be lower are Vermont, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire. The NEA recommends 16 students for one teacher (ideally) but the reality is 25 children in the classroom.
As if the workload wasn't enough, the state of Georgia decided to add a little more to the "homework" for the kindergarten teacher. Gone are the A-F grades for the other grade levels. Now parents receive booklets detailing how their child is doing in a number of areas. "The Georgia Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (GKIDS) is a year-long, performance-based assessment aligned to the state mandated content standards," according to the GA Department of Education. The primary purpose of GKIDS is to provide ongoing diagnostic information about kindergarten students’ developing skills in English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Personal/Social Development, and Approaches to Learning. GKIDS will also provide a summary of student performance in English Language Arts and Mathematics at the end of the kindergarten school year. GKIDS should serve as one indicator of first grade readiness. GKIDS will serve both a formative and summative role in assessing kindergarten students.
Not only do the teachers need to asses each child academically, but also in non-academic domains such as personal and social development, motor skills, and approaches to learning. According to parents, the report cards wind of being a very long, multi-page report.
Administrators and law makers have no idea what kind of energy, organization and control over the classroom it takes to adequately equip this number of students. Kids at this age have to be monitored all the time, not to mention how many times a teacher will be required to assist in shoe tying, nose wiping as well as classroom tasks such as teaching them how to log onto the computer. I've been there. I thought this younger generation was all advanced when it came to computers. They know how to use smartphones but mouses and keyboards with logins and passwords are challenging for this age. Needless to say, a lot of time gets wasted on trivial things.
A typical educator has spent untold hours in class learning curriculum and how best to impart it to their students yet without classroom control, those students will never get to learn the wonderful concepts. Classroom discipline is not typically taught on the college level; it's something teachers have had to learn on the job.
When you are raising your own children, you can discipline him/her the way you see fit. A teacher in a classroom is limited in the amount and type of discipline allowed in the classroom. I've seen moms who can control their children with a stern look. That's amazing. In the classroom, teachers typically use techniques like the traffic light colors: green--well behaved, yellow--warning, red--note or call home. Then there's taking away recess time. Apart from that, there's little else a teacher can do to discipline a child.
Now imagine a class with a handful of ADD/ADHD students. The ones who truly suffer are the sweet, quiet, bright children who want to do their work. Teachers are constantly attending to the "squeaky" children, the good ones get overlooked.
If you are a parent of one of these blessed ADD children, let me start off by saying God bless you. It is quite a challenge. Whatever method you choose to use to manage your child's hyperactivity, I urge you to win that battle as soon as possible. It is so easy to get behind in school. Bad behavior is a horrible reason to be later placed in special ed classes but I've seen it happen. Kids can get so far behind and miss skills and are never able to catch up due to this disruptive behavior.
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3. Differences in Knowledge
Most of the people I know are very active in the educational process of their child. We send them to preschool or teach them at home. Unfortunately, the majority of kindergarten curriculum is still a repeat of preschool material with a focus on letters, numbers and handwriting. My daughter went into kindergarten knowing all of that and was already reading. Thinking my daughter was ahead I was shocked to see several children already able to read chapter books!
Even in this modern age, there are still many parents who are not actively involved in their child's academic life. They believe it is the school's job to teach and do not monitor what their child can and cannot do. Just because your child attends preschool do not be fooled that they are learning their letters and numbers and how to write them. Do not believe unless you see it for yourself. Take your child's hand and physically show them how to correctly write their numbers and letters.
Here in GA, the curriculum is different for our free, lottery preschool than for the paying families. The children in these programs do not mix. This concerned me so I sent my child to a private preschool. FACT: your child can get through preschool and kindergarten without knowing how to correctly write letters and numbers nor knowing how to read. Schools today teach sight words, not how to sound out words. What do they do when they get to a word they've never seen before? I used the book pictured to the right. My kids learned how to sound out words and not memorize them.
4. Sharing a Parapro
A paraprofessional, parapro for short, is someone who has limited credentials and typically assists in the educational process. Parapros often shadow special needs children in the older grades, assisting them with whatever need arises. Parapros in kindergarten assist the teacher, allowing for a more manageable student to teacher ratio. However, in the state of GA, what used to consist of one teacher and one parapro per kindergarten class has changed. Now parapros are shared between two kindergarten classes. Again, this is another cost-cutting measure that directly affects the quality of education for our students. From my own experience, if it wasn't for the woman who was my daughter's parapro being in the classroom full-time, our kindergarten year would have been a complete disaster! Thank you Mrs. A!
Before I end this section, I'd like to give a big thank you to all of the people who work in our schools as paraprofessionals. You work all day with NO BREAK for very little pay. Thank you for taking such loving care of our children!
5. Lack of Individual Attention
Like I've said earlier in this blog, I have walked in the steps of these amazing educators and know I could never do their job day after day. They are truly special people! With that being said, it is physically impossible to give each child the individual attention they need at this tender age. Five and six year olds tend to be sensitive, maybe a little immature, need lots of positive reinforcement, and boundaries. I can remember the days of when my kids wanted me to watch them do everything: as they jump into the pool, ride their bike down the street, drive their motorized jeep in a circle, etc. They need us!
And remember those in-depth report cards I wrote about earlier? Teachers take time to fill out with as much depth and detail as they are required. This is time taken away from your student! If you think those teachers don't use class time to fill those things out, you are fooling yourself. Most of the classroom time is spent with the kids working silently by themselves and the teacher is at her computer.
When it comes to learning how to read and write, I firmly believe they are best learned one on one. I remember taking each one of my four children's hands and teaching them how to correctly form letters and numbers. Several years ago I subbed at my local elementary school in kindergarten. It was the end of the year so the teacher had "trained" the class pretty well on what to do and when to do it so the day went smoothly. As the day progressed, I remember seeing the work of a little girl. We'll call her Sally. As she turned in her papers, I noticed I couldn't read her name on the paper. This shocked me because it was the END of the school year. Surely by now, this sweet child could write her letters. I pulled Sally aside and asked her if I could help her write her name better. She agreed. During recess, Sally and I sat together, my hand guiding hers, we wrote her name over and over again. By the end, there were a few others looking on, only one or two otherswere willing to let me help them. This occurred at a middle to upper middle class school in a nice part of town. What is it like in the poorer cities?
If you choose public kindergarten, my advice...
If for some reason, it doesn't work out to send your child anyplace else but your local school for kindergarten, here's some advice:
- Don't assume your teacher is covering the basics. Sit down and work on basic writing and reading skills together.
- Volunteer a lot!! There's no better way to get a feel of what really happens in your child's class than from actually being there on a regular basis. I saw how my daughter's teacher was disengaged all the time. It made it easier to accept when my daughter got a "U" for conduct.
- Don't be afraid to fight for your child. You are your child's greatest advocate. Be involved. Be aware.
- Be understanding and gracious to the teacher. He/she probably has a busy family life outside of the classroom.
- Get to know your fellow parents. They can be a wealth of information.